After an incredibly unpredictable tournament — which saw a No. 16 seed knock off a No. 1 seed for the first time, on the men’s side — the national championship game will be between the No. 1 seed Villanova Wildcats and the No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines on Monday night.
Michigan enters the national championship game after knocking off this season’s Cinderella Loyola Chicago on Saturday afternoon, 69-57. The Ramblers were unable to contain junior forward Moritz Wagner as he racked up 24 points hitting 62.5% of his shots from field and 42.9% from behind the arc. Wagner’s performance is what allowed the Wolverines to pull away from Loyola in the second half after trailing by seven at half time. As the Wagner turned on his game the Ramblers struggled with shooting from beyond the arc (they only hit one of 10 three-point attempts in 40 minutes) and their offense stalled as a result.
As for Villanova, they started off the game by taking an early 22-4 lead and never really let Kansas get back into it as the Wildcats ran away with a 95-79 win to advance to their second national championship game in three years. Nova hit a final four record 18 three pointers during their 16-point win; meanwhile Kansas only hit seven three pointers…the Jayhawks were just unable to keep up with Villanova’s prolific offensive production.
3) Jordan Poole will showcase what his talent
While Wagner has understandably been the center of attention on Michigan’s roster, freshman guard Jordan Poole has statistically been the more efficient player. According to college basketball reference, Poole would have averaged 20.6 points per 40 minutes in conference play (Wagner averaged 19.5). During the regular season the freshman played in limited minutes and that’s continued into the NCAA tournament.
In Michigan’s previous tournament games he’s averaged 7.5 minutes and averaged four points. Since the Wolverines have been involved in mostly close cames throughout the tournament, the majority of the ball handling has come through Wagner…but Michigan hasn’t encountered a team with a similar level of athletic talent during its last four games. That changes on Monday and I fully expect Poole to become more involved in UM’s offense against Villanova, even in limited minutes.
2) Villanova will hit all of the three pointers
The Wildcats have been hot as hell from beyond the arc during the tournament — they’ve shot over 40% from beyond the arc in three of their four tournament games. Nova has used its three-point shooting to build up almost insurmountable leads throughout the postseason to reach the title game; even when Nova isn’t hitting all of the threes, the final score wasn’t even close to it.
It’s my expectation that Villanova will continue to hit all of the shots from three-point land, putting lots of pressure on Michigan’s offense to keep up.
1) Michigan will take care of the rock
Michigan’s offense was exceptionally good at taking care of the ball during the season, which has carried over into the tournament. It’s made the Wolverines offense efficient, even though they haven’t been as explosive as some of the teams they’ve faced so far in MArch. As a result, they’ve been able to grind all of their other opponents into dust in games that have been far too close for comfort.
Don’t expect Michigan to chuck up the rock from beyond the arc randomly, that’s not their game. The Wolverines like to move the ball and get inside for buckets from inside the paint. It’s this ball control that has allowed them to move so far in the tournament and you should fully expect that to continue in the national championship game…despite Nova’s propensity for shooting threes.